Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Highway 395 In The Spring

Tossed the kid in the car and took her south for Spring Break for a few days to visit her relatives.  The ridiculous amounts of snow we've had in the Sierras was evident at the Crestview rest stop near Mammoth, which up until now was resoundingly closed due to a 20 foot high wall of snow blocking the entrance and entombing the place.

This time they'd finally managed to get a snowplow in there and clean the place out, at least enough to unearth the buildings and for vehicles to get into the parking lot.

Lots of snow still surrounded the place, tho!
Note the shed on the left for scale...

Also had the kid pose next to the local glacier for scale.

The thing just went as far as the eye could see in a huge horseshoe encircling the rest area.  Looking at the layers and seeing each storm's snowfall was fun.

A little further south things had warmed up a bit. We stopped off at Tom's Place to admire the trees and rocks..and the trees *in* rocks.

Gotta love cool and weird rock formations...

Tom's Place.  Hasn't changed a whit (except for paint color) since it was built in 1919. Very cute spot and well worth a stop.

Right next to this parking lot is Rock Creek. It was flowing well although pretty much tea-colored due to Spring snowmelt.  The little bridge in the background was calling me, but it seemed to be on private property so we didn't explore.
We tried to drive up the road to Rock Creek Lake, but the gate at the trailhead was still closed and locked.  Next time!

We did get to suddenly come across a herd of deer smack in the road.  They just looked at us so I slowly went around them, yelling at a doe as I did, "Hey, get outta the road!"

Her response was to throw her head up and start out after the car like she was gonna teach me a lesson and either kick my butt or throw herself through my windshield.  Possibly both.  No thank you, we hurried up the road.

We made Bishop and stopped for lunch, taking it to our favorite park to feed the ducks.
Yeah.  Right.  Ducks.

Seagulls as far as the eye could see.  The ducks were around, but mostly made themselves scarce.  Unlike this guy, who seemed to be a professional-grade beggar.

...and he was very vocal and LOUD about it. When I called my husband to check in, it was hard to hear over the incessant pitiful seagull cries for more food. You had to time your conversation for when the little dude was inhaling for his next round of "EEE EEE EEEEEEE!"

Even when he was walking around he was yelling about how he was starving, criminy.
Yeah, poor guy is skin and bones.

After getting badly suckered by con-artist birds, we continued south...and drove through the little town of Lone Pine...where either they're soured on tourists or are planning on being Ground Zero of the coming zombie apocalypse.

It was like a set piece for a Roger Corman film.

Oh well, at least the bees are happy with highway 395's amazing Spring bloom!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Chick Pics So Far...

This afternoon we moved Popcorn and Tater Tot to the brooder box, where they are happily snuggled with their surrogate ocotomom and nibbling away at food.

'Popcorn' cute face...

Grumpy Popcorn...

And 'Tater Tot Hotdish'

Another egg, #25, pipped a few hours ago and is progressing nicely!

And today, the 14th, here she is! Meet 'Banjo'!

Banjo's foot feathers are truly epic.

'Strychnine' has been moved to the brooder box to join her siblings.

Group shots of the four we have so far...top to bottom, counterclockwise: Banjo, Popcorn, Strychnine and Tater Tot.

They luv snuggling their octomom!  And each other...

Lastly, one Dark Cornish egg hatched, #5.  This is 'Groot'!

Groot has lovely, interesting markings on her back...

No more eggs have pipped, and none of them are rocking or peeping...so we may be done at 5 chicks.  The rest of the eggs will be left in the incubator for several days to make sure.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Look, Fresh Chickens!

The hatch has begun, #15 popped out at at 4PM!  A tiny little black and white Belgian d'Uccle mix.  Cute and slimely all at the same time!

Head over here to watch the hatch, so far just one other egg has pipped, #17.


And Here We Go!

So I went out the the incubator & brooder box, getting final touches ready...

Little things, like making sure Club Flamingo is set, along with a cuddle buddy for the chicks that the kid donated...

And I did the final turn of the Lot B eggs, placing them down on the floor of the incubator to join the Lot A eggs, plus adding more water to bring up the humidity to 65%.

And damned if I didn't see our first pip, on #15!  It's hard to see, but it's on the upper left on the shell and looks like a little half circle.  The egg is rocking back and forth and being quite active.  No other pips as yet, but several other eggs have been moving!

#15 will probably hatch in about 6-8 hours...maybe a bit more, but those banties are quick little stinkers!  When any egg is close to hatch, we'll start the cam!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Lockdown Day!

And yeah, even though with the ReptiPro incubator you don't actually do a lockdown (where you stop turning the eggs and do not open the incubator again until the hatch is done) on the eggs, day 18 of incubation will forever be 'lockdown day' to me.  With the ReptiPro you simply stop turning the eggs, but do open the incubator 5 times a day to let fresh air in.  So today was lockdown day for Lot A, the first group of eggs.  Lot B will join them tomorrow, meanwhile I'm still turning Lot B today.

We ended up with 13 embryos, 11 of our eggs and only 2 of the Dark Cornish that made it to this point.  To tell the truth, given the age and condition of the rest of the mail-order Dark Cornish eggs, if either of the chicks makes it and is healthy, it'll be a miracle.

But here they are!  Lot A has been moved down to the bottom of the incubator, where the humidity will be raised to 65%.  Banty eggs in front since I suspect those little stinkers will hatch first, probably even early.

Maybe even today... 
No pips or peeping yet, but some of the eggs are rocking when I talk to them!

My little homemade water weasel performed just fine and is still doing it's job...

As for the brooder box, it's been raining so non-soggy boxes were not to be found--but my husband found some fun raw materials for me to construct it out of...
It's a movie advertising display!

We don't want the glossy surface on the inside with the chicks, so here's the end product:

The brooder box will get the finishing touches of hay, heat lamp, food/water dishes, etc. today.  But we're ready!

I'm actually ahead of the banty eggs hatching FOR ONCE, HA!

I will update on the Chickam Twitter page when the hatch begins, and you can watch it on our UStream channel, here--if you tune in and see eggs, that means the hatch has begun!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Egg Candling Day!

Or night, to be more accurate.

Armed with my trusty LED desk lamp and a metal canning funnel turned upside-down over the thing, I was able to cup one hand around the eggs and use the other to gently rotate the egg until I could see how many potential chicks we have waiting in the wings.  The ReptiPro has been a darling, purring along and holding it's temperature and humidity beautifully.

I had one dozen Dark India Cornish eggs bought off ebay and shipped...and unfortunately, because of several different issues, will NOT be using this particular breeder again.  More on that later, but out of 12 eggs, I saw embryos in only 2, 6 were clear duds that never developed, and 4 others I was unsure of but gave the benefit of the doubt and returned to the incubator.  The 'unsure' ones I strongly suspect are duds with broken yolks, though.  We'll keep our fingers crossed.

Out of the 13 eggs from our hens, I saw embryos in 6, 6 I was unsure of (one may have quit, 5 others are too dark to candle positively but I think *do* have embryos), and 1 was a dud.

I will do a breakout on the 'dud' eggs to check for fertility, lack of freshness and other causes later on.

So right now we have 8 embryos for sure and 10 others that *might* have embryos!  I will candle again on day 17 (this Sunday) and remove any other eggs that have not progressed.  But I think I can safely say we will have about 13 chicks!

Now, back to the shipped eggs if you want to read the whole sad story...before I bid, I first contacted the seller weeks ahead of time and asked if he could ship the eggs within a certain date range so I could get them a few days before I planned on setting eggs.  No problem, he said.  So I went ahead and bid on one of his auctions and won it, sending him a message right away reminding him NOT to ship the eggs for another two weeks, as we had agreed.

A few days later (two weeks ahead of time), I was unpleasantly surprised to find a USPS box on my doorstep.  Not only that, but it was completely lacking any kind of 'Fragile' or 'Hatching Eggs, Do Not X-ray' stamp. Box kinda crunched on one end, but eggs packed well and no harm done.


OK, contacted the seller, said I can't use these eggs in two weeks (every chicken breeder knows Rule #1:  you NEVER set old eggs to hatch). He said, sorry, he got mixed up. He also said that marking the package 'Fragile Do Not X-ray' would have made it 'suspicious' and subject to being opened and inspected (what do I care?)...he said the eggs should be 'fine'.

OK...contacted him again and said nope, I'm not gonna set 2 week old eggs, his mistake, so he needs to send a replacement shipment.

He said OK, but MADE ME PAY HIM ANOTHER 25 CENTS for him to print out a new shipping label before he'd do so!

Criminy.  OK, done.  Eggs shipped and received, box still not marked as 'Fragile' or 'Do Not X-ray'. *sigh...* But again, eggs packed well and seem in good condition.

Meanwhile my egg set day arrives and the new eggs and some of mine are started in the incubator, well and good.  I decided to do a breakout on the first shipment to check for fertility.

YIKES. Only 60-70% fertility.  Four of the eggs I opened were obviously very old and had started to rot--they hadn't gotten to the 'green and smelly' stage yet, but were clearly nearly there with weak yolks and foul, yellow whites with dark solids floating in them.  About 1/3 of the rest of the eggs were clearly not fresh and had started to turn with the yolk mottled and discolored, but the albumen as yet unaffected.  Not fresh--not candidates for hatching. To be fair, the eggs had good strong shells.

I took some pictures of what I'd found and sent them and an email to the seller to let him know...that was 11 days ago, no response yet.  It's really disappointing to run across a chicken breeder such as this, most are very proud of their eggs and would never send old eggs or a shipment that isn't clearly marked, 'Fertile Chicken Hatching Eggs--Please Handle With Care And Do Not X-Ray'.  It's dead standard marking for the outside of the box, and no one I know has every had an issue with it.  It's how I mark my egg shipments when I send out eggs.

So...that's my sad little chicken egg story.  Geez, I think I would have done better to take my money and throw it into the street...